Friday, 25 December 2015

Looks like coffee not multigrade?

Ilford multigrade paper developer
It has been sometime since I have entered the orange light district. Upon entering recently the darkroom looked a mess, something I don't remember leaving.! It could do with a good clear out and clean up but that will have to wait. I'm in desperate need of print therapy. I do a quick clean of the enlarging easel and lens. Then check the chemicals in the paper processor.

 The developer has gone a very deep brown, the stop and the fix look OK they were all fresh the last time. Even so I change the fix. Now what to do about the dev? In the end I emptied out half so I could refill it with fresh. Your thinking 'it's knackered why bother?' but I prefer the tone you get when fresh and old are mixed together. The slight depletion gives a warmth to images I like.

Contact prints.
I opened a partly used bottle of Ilford multigrade and poured out some of the contents to be met by a liquid the colour of black coffee! That's a new one on me never had that before! Which makes me think - ( expletive ) Mmmm! I'll use it anyway see what happens. I do not have a choice as I do not have a fresh bottle on the shelf.

First test print
It was my intention to get on with some enlargements, but I decide to contact print three sets of freshly developed 35mm negatives as this will test the strength of the developer. It turns out that the dev is more depleted than I had expected ( you were right). The contacts are taking nearly two minutes to reach full development and that is a very long time for resin coated paper, which is usually fully done in a minute.

Before I start work on the enlargements I drain another litre of developer and add some more 'black coffee' (developer) to the mix. Then load the first negative into the enlarger. I find I can be a little apprehensive getting ready to do my first print after a long absence. I'm not sure why, as it always works well.  

Second test print

With the first test strip exposed, into the dev it goes. Ah! I was a little quick off the mark the developer has not reached 20C yet as it takes a little over a minute to fully develop. As it turn out the test strip shows that I was being optimistic with the F8 aperture I had set. The test strip is not showing any exposure in the first four, five second segments. Indicating it will take more than fifty seconds to reach a base exposure time. That's far to long so, I adjust it to F5.6 effectively doubling the light. The next test strip I start at fifteen second and go on from there at five second intervals. Sometimes I can over develop the negatives and this is the first indication of it. Which I don't mind. The trick is not to over do it as it leads to loss of detail. That's better! the test strip was fully developed in less than a minute.

How the areas were dodged showing
how much extra light was added to each

With the second test strip in the holding try I take my time looking at the segments. My vision for the image has already formed and with a plan. All I need now is get off the fence and decide what time the first print should be exposed at. I plump for twenty two seconds at F5.6 at grade three on Kentmere RC gloss 9x12. I have already noted that the Ro9s negatives are a little softer than the normal Ro9 and not as grainy.

I need to point out here that I always work from wet test strips and automatically add a dry down factor without thinking. Ansel Adams used to tell a story of how he came to recommend that you should always work from dry test strips and prints. He had produced a particular photograph that was a delight to the eye so much so that he went ahead and printed a large number of them. Only to throw the whole lot out the following day as they did not look as good as when they were wet. I don't very often do long print runs and if I do it is not until I have studied the print dry in day light.

Final print.

As I look at the photograph in the holding tray with the rooms light on I can see it is over exposed, dull and muddy looking. It lacks the luminosity I have come to expert from analogy prints.

I already new that the picture would need dodging to recreate my vision. I inspected the test strip again and cut the overall exposure time to fifteen seconds. I then dodged the foreshore and wooden posts while I added a further seven seconds to the water above them and the sky.

Again I studied the second print in the holding try. Although it had improved, It still fell short of my vision. It is a good idea to have a notebook to hand in the darkroom so you can keep track of the adjustments. I have now cut the overall exposure to eleven seconds. I will add a further seventeen seconds in three sections. First of all I will add four sec's from the edge of the water to the rest of the picture. Next, seven sec's from where the wooden posts finish and finally seven more seconds to the upper part of the sky.

These last adjustment have improved the image no end. Bringing it very close to what I had in mind and giving it the luminosity it lacked. There maybe some fine tuning needed when I print it on FB paper but I will only do that once the photograph is fully dry.
With the three prints side by side
You can see how the image has changed.

The coffee coloured developer has worked well even with the heavy oxidation of liquid. A change in colour does not always mean it has lost it's potency. Now that the photograph is dry the image has a very gentle warmth to it. I have found that the tone a photograph takes is more pronounced once it is fully dry.